For many women, making an appointment with an obstetrician/gynecologist (commonly referred to as OB/GYN) can be intimidating, and some may avoid visiting one altogether. The truth is, visiting an OB/GYN is important for all women.
Here are the top reasons for a woman to make an appointment today.
1. Overall physical health
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly urges women starting at ages 13-15 to see their OB/GYN annually. Its website states, “In general the physical examination will include obtaining standard vital signs, determining body mass index, palpating the abdomen and inguinal lymph nodes, and making an assessment of the patient’s overall health.” Some will have a pelvic examination and clinical tests done as well.
In layman's terms, if something semi-serious to serious is going on with your body and you don't know about it, a checkup with an OB/GYN could be the difference maker. It's like taking your car in for an oil change and tune up.
2. Pregnancy related visits
Obstetricians, aka the baby deliverers, are an essential part to any pregnancy. Surprisingly enough, many pregnant American females don't have a set obstetrician they visit. In fact, according to a study from 2000-2009 currently referenced on medicaldaily.com, “65 percent of pregnant women in U.S. seek medical care from multiple providers.”
Although it may be fine to go to multiple clinics until the mother-to-be is happy with the provider, she runs the risk of losing medical data that may not be adequately documented or losing the physician/patient relationship while going somewhere new.
3. Irregular menstruation
If a woman has a concern about her menstrual cycle, it's important to make an appointment with the OB/GYN asap. If the problem is ignored, it could cause reproductive problems later on.
If periods have stopped, become irregular, last a long time or have undergone a change in blood flow, a woman should tell her OB/GYN immediately and in great detail. The more specific you can be the better.
4. Breast exams
Breast exams are most commonly recommended for women over 40, although, if a history of breast cancer is in the family then earlier exams are needed. In the United States, 67 percent of women over 40 get exams, according to cancer.org — a statistic that's holding steady. But that still leave over 30 percent that aren't getting exams when they should be.
The website also shows that the death rate from breast cancer has gone down 34 percent since 1990 — a clear indication that getting a breast exam on an annual basis is crucial to early detection of breast cancer.
5. Pelvic exam
Women ages 21 years and older should get an annual pelvic exam, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. In particular, it recommends that "patients with menstrual disorders, vaginal discharge, infertility or pelvic pain should receive a pelvic examination," as well as "perimenopausal patients with abnormal uterine bleeding, changes in bowel or bladder function or symptoms of vaginal discomfort..."
It is not every woman’s favorite appointment, but a pelvic exam is indispensable to a woman's overall health.
6. Pap smear
To stay clear of cancer and other health concerns, a pap smear is necessary every few years. Women 21 years and older should make their regular visits for this simple, quick procedure that is just as important as breast exams.
It may seem like common sense, but many women who put off having a pap smears as recommended by doctors, later regret not doing it.
7. Birth control
Once a woman becomes sexually active and is not yet ready to conceive, she should visit a physician for birth control and family planning advice — an OB/GYN can share plenty of options.
8. Change in vaginal discharge
As previously mentioned, vaginal discharge is something to keep an eye on if you're a woman. Womenshealth.answers.com says, “A bad odor or discharge from the vagina is a sign that something is wrong, usually an infection.”
If left untreated, or if a woman attempts to treat the problem without the help of an OB/GYN, the problem can quickly get worse, so it's important to quickly make an appointment.
9. Blood in urine
When going to the bathroom, if a woman has pain when she urinates, or when blood is seen (pink-ish or brown-ish urine), a visit to the OB/GYN is essential to figuring out if there is a health concern.
Often times blood in urine doesn't raise any red flags immediately but if it persists the problem should be diagnosed to see if treatment is needed.
10. Painful sex or painful cramps
Everyone has a different pain tolerance, but when a woman is always on painkillers for cramps, or when sex is super painful, the OB/GYN can help. It is not healthy to live off of ibuprofen each month; it could hurt the woman’s liver, and there could be a problem why sex is hurting.
Now that you're armed with 10 different scenarios in which you'd be wise to seek medical attention, be sure to find a doctor you're comfortable with so you can develop a relationship and make regular visits.
ARTICLE ENDNOTE: Celeste Ubri received a BA in Communication, emphasizing in Journalism.